Fortunately, there is a way to lower the costs and expand capacity to provide care to more of our elders, disabled and children. Another kind of provider called a Dental Hygiene Practitioner (DHP) is being considered by the New Hampshire Senate. A dental hygienist who wants to be a DHP would go back for additional classroom education and clinical training in a set of common procedures -- such as permanent fillings. Operating under a practice agreement with a licensed dentist (who remains the leader of the team), the DHP could be deployed in a private dental office, health clinic or even a mobile setting to provide both preventative services and limited restorative services (like fillings) that right now only a dentist is allowed to perform. With a DHP in a practice, dentists’ time is freed to treat the most complex cases. This is an efficient, sensible way to provide care that is so badly needed and so out of reach for too many in New Hampshire. And, it’s especially notable because it’s one piece of the solution that doesn’t increase state expenditures and doesn’t force new regulations on current dental providers.
Senators should consider this innovative approach now being practiced in 50 countries worldwide, and in states such as Minnesota and Alaska. Every surrounding New England state is considering similar legislation. New Hampshire should take the lead. To do otherwise is letting our most vulnerable residents suffer needlessly.
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